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A sump is an external water reservoir and a sump filter is usually installed underneath the aquarium. This style of filtration has always gained more popularity because sumps work for just any set up including sensitive reef creatures. Sumps will increase the stability of the water environment and have the added benefit of increasing the water volume. These are great for out-of-sight storage of protein skimmers or any other equipment like waters pumps and calcium reactors.

Essentially a sump is a simple water container which will be on the outside of your aquarium. This sump relies on a siphon overflow system which means it should move water out of the aquarium and push it back up the tank through a water pump once filtration is completed. For different filtration methods, sumps are often divided into chambers. Filter Sumps can be configured like configuring any other sumps. The idea is to have a multi-chambered sump which works for your system.

Sumps allow you to easily add trace element supplements and keep your equipment out of sight. They increase water volume and it is easy to add new water gradually which helps prevent many problems. Partitioned sumps can help in culturing of live foods include brine shrimps as well as plankton and macroalgae. You can also make use of it as a refugium for fragile or damage organisms. These chambers protect the inhabitants while also providing them the same healthy water conditions that the rest of the tank has.

If you have a saltwater aquarium, the protein skimmer or foam-fractionating filter, is the most important item you need to keep your tank clean and healthy. The protein skimmer is most effective at removing dissolved organic compounds before they start to break down and require your biological filter to remove.

The process of skimming only works with saltwater due to the nature of the water itself. The salt in the water creates friction when it rubs against the air bubbles, creating a charge. Because opposites attract, the air bubble is attracted to the oppositely charged wastes and combine into one unit until they float to the top of the water column. The bubbles then burst, releasing the wastes into a skimmer cup for collection.

The introduction of a skimmer will significantly reduce the amount of orgainc waste in the saltwater or reef aquarium and increase the water quality which will greatly decrease the amount of nuisance algae growth.

Types of Skimmers:

  • Beckett: The Beckett style of protein skimmers utilize a foam injector nozzle that must be powered by a powerful pump to generate the pressure necessary to create the tiny air bubbles in the foam. Beckett protein skimmers are among the most efficient skimmer designs. The Beckett Corporation was the first to manufacturer this specific type of foam injector nozzle, but many foreign companies have copied the design to produce similar products.
  • Spray Induction: Spray induction protein skimmers integrate a spray nozzle directly below the surface of the water inside the column. At the bottom of the water column the air bubbles are then broken into smaller bubbles before rising to the top to export the waste.
  • Downdraft: Downdraft skimmers use a venturi to spray water at high velocity into a column that contains bio-balls. The bio-ball media disrupt the water flow, creating air bubbles. The bubbles are then diverted into a sump box, where they interact with the water to be treated, and then rise to the top to the collection cup.
  • Aspirating Needle Wheel: The aspirating needle wheel design also goes by various other names including: pin wheel, Adrian wheel, and mesh wheel. The needle wheel consists of an impeller that integrates pins positioned perpendicular to the base. The pins serve to disperse the air introduced via a venturi valve into smaller, finer air bubbles.
  • Venturi: These popular models do not use an air stone to introduce the air; they use a venturi valve. The venturi style skimmers are similar to the counter-current models except instead of an air stone, they use the venturi to introduce large amounts of air bubbles. They require a much shorter column and are far more efficient. The only drawback to this style is they require a powerful pump to drive the air through the venturi valve.
  • Air Stone: The size and quantity of the bubbles created in the water column affect the efficiency of the skimmer. The co-current skimmers have the source of the bubbles (typically an air stone), mounted on the base of the column and use the volume of bubbles created to lift the wastes to the top of the column to be skimmed off into the collection cup. Since the air bubbles travel fast up the column, a longer column is required to be effective. To be more efficient, the bubbles have to dwell in the column as long as possible, so they collect the wastes before bursting at the surface.

Like plants, algae need certain nutrients in order to grow and multiply. The two main groups of nutrients are phosphates and nitrates, with an abundance of either often leading to an abundance of algae. Excess algae growth clogs filters, reduces visibility and may pollute the water.

Reactors are nothing more than specialized filters, designed, as the name suggests, to chemically remove excess nutrients from the water, which should help keep phytoplankton – free-floating algae – and attached algae under control. They usually work by absorbing excess nutrients into a specialized medium. Hobbyists often use them in conjunction with a deep sand bed.

Reactors treat one of the symptoms of a nutrient problem, but they don't address the cause of there being too many nutrients in the first place. An excess of nutrients suggests an excess of organic waste. In this case, algae growth will be the least of your worries, so take steps to reduce nutrient levels, perhaps by more frequent partial water changes, rather than relying entirely on a reactor.

Activated Carbon:

By far, the most common method of chemical filtration in the marine and reef aquariums is the use of activated carbon.  Yes, activated carbon will remove an amount of trace elements from the aquarium water, but in essence, that’s its job (to remove dissolved elements from the water).  The amounts of trace elements that are removed are easily replaced by using a supplement.

It's important that you only purchase high quality activated carbon that has been acid washed prior to packaging in order to reduce the amount of ash on the carbon. It has been found that activated carbon with higher ash content leaches more phosphate into the water than those with a low ash content.  You must make sure to thoroughly wash the carbon before use in order to remove as much ash as possible.

Nitrate Removers:

Nitrate removers are very porous material that resemble crushed coral or gravel and work by increasing the levels of natural anaerobic de-nitrification in the aquarium. These products accomplish this task by being impregnated with anaerobic bacteria that naturally dissolve nitrate.  Nitrate removal mediums should be positioned in an area with low flow rates. Levels of nitrate should never exceed 10-15 ppm, but ideally, a level of below 5 ppm should be maintained.

Phosphate Removers:

Phosphate removers are Iron Oxide granules a mineral that has the property of absorbing phosphate and other materials into its porous structure by means of ion attachment.  This type of chemical filtration is best used when water is flowing through the medium at a slow rate, so a phosphate reactor is often used.  There are many different manufacturers of phosphate removal medium and each medium should be used per the manufacturer’s directions.

Such removers are very useful materials in the reef aquarium, and when a developed reef has been established, it is almost mandatory to use some sort of phosphate remover. The levels of phosphate in the reef aquarium should always be kept below .7 ppm, but if you are planning on having small polyp stonies (SPS’s) in your aquarium, levels below .3 ppm are mandatory and levels of 0 ppm are ideal.

Poly Filters:

Poly filters are sponges, cloths or other materials that have been impregnated with one of the materials previously listed (activated carbon, iron oxide, etc.) or another chemical material. The main selling point for this type of filter is convenience.  These filters are actually just sponges laced with the by-product (dust) of one or more of the manufactured materials above.  These types of filters are not recommended as you can never know exactly how much active product you are using, and you will always spend more money on this type of filter due to the additional manufacturing processes needed to create it.

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